WHO WERE THE PHOENICIANS AND CARTHAGINIANS?
Valerie Martlew, U.K.
Two of the races which were famed in legend of the ancient days were the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. When we have the key to understanding world history in the light of the Bible's revelations, it becomes obvious that the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians were part of the colonising and pioneering Semitic or
Shemitic peoples. They were an offshoot of the ancient Amorites who were also mainly Shemitic, or Hebraic, but not in the sense that most people nowadays
consider the Semites (which is why I prefer "Shemite" to "Semite", since the latter has become confused in the minds of the majority as Jewish and Arab peoples,
with darker complexions and distinctive features).
The original Shemites were people descended from Noah's son Shem, and some historians say that these peoples, including the Israelites,were of the stock now
classified as Nordic, (or Indo-European), with fair or red hair and blue or grey eyes, long headed and tall in stature.These people had a deep-seated urge to migrate
and colonise, and eventually they spread abroad all over the world.
The Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean and south-western European ports. They were the foremost among the ancient merchants. They inhabited only a narrow strip of the northern coastline of Palestine. The area was originally settled by Amorites (meaning "Westerners"), who were not necessarily Hebrews, but were a kindred people.
They were Semitic, or Shemitic people, that is, they claimed descent from Shem. Although they later became very mixed with the descendants of Ham, such as the Canaanites, they had a high proportion of fair skinned, fair-haired Shemitic peoples, from whom Abraham and his family came. When Israel later settled in the Promised Land, many Israelites, mostly from the tribes of Dan and Zebulun, joined with them in their seafaring enterprises. In this way the forerunners of the later Israelitish migrations reached the British Isles, and they had settlements in Spain and Portugal.
The Phoenicians had included Canaanites and Jebusites, as well as Israelites, but the rulers of the Phoenician and Carthaginian nations were of the Semitic stock, as we may guess from the story of Hiram, King of Tyre, in Phoenicia. He was of great assistance to King Solomon of Israel in his temple building operations of the Temple. If Hiram had not been of the original Amoritic or Shemitic stock, it is unlikely that he would have been so friendly and helpful to a king of Israel.
The Phoenicians had turned to the sea for a living, for their territory was narrow, being the coastal strip of Palestine, and thus they became famous as seafarers and traders. They were joined by many members of Israel, notably the tribes of Dan and Zebulun, who had territory bordering the sea. The prophetess, Deborah,
complained that the tribe of Dan "abode in ships", rather than assisting their brethren in the wars, and they became colonisers, spreading the name of "Dan" or the
consonants "DN" (there were no vowels in ancient Hebrew), around the fringe of the Mediterranean and further afield.We may trace their name in the European
rivers Danube, Dnieper, Dniester, Don and the Danaans of Ancient Greece, sometimes called the "Doric" peoples.
They began their maritime and trading activities at the time when the Greeks overthrew the Minoans of Crete, which was in about 1400 B.C. They were responsible for founding colonies in Spain (Tarshish), and working the silver mines of the Iberian peninsula. From there they ventured through the "Pillars of Hercules", which are the present day Straits of Gibraltar, trading with the western coast of Spain, Portugal, France, Brittany and Cornwall. They not only distributed goods among these places and their colonies, but eventually began to manufacture these articles for themselves. They became skilled workers in metal, glass and cloth, and developed an expensive dye, much prized by royalty, an imperial purple from the murex snail.
They also are credited with inventing the forerunner of our alphabet. This was a great breakthrough, because it was syllabic as opposed to hieroglyphic writing; that
is, it had letters to represent sounds, rather than pictures representing concepts, such as the ancient Egyptian symbols and present day Chinese and Japanese scripts.
The alphabet was supposed to have been developed at Byblos in about 1,000 B.C. From the name of this city came the Greek biblia (books) and our Bible.
There were two great cities of Phoenicia, Sidon, which was the centre of the glass industry, and Tyre, where the valued purple dye was produced. As we have said, King Hiram of Tyre traded with King Solomon of Israel and hired out skilled workmen to him for building the Temple. No doubt they also imported the cedars of
Lebanon and transported them to Jerusalem.
From this information it can be seen that they were a cultured and civilised people. However, they did not worship the Jehovah of Israel, but a number of heathen
deities, such as Baal, Astarte, (orAshtoreth), and Moloch, to whom human sacrifices were offered. In the excavations of the area archaeologists have come across burials of babies which have obviously been sacrificed;
(Leviticus 18:21) And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.
(2 Kings 23:10) And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
You will remember how bitter the prophets of Israel were against these horrible practices, and how they warned Israel of the consequences of becoming involved with such a vile religion. The prophet Elijah was especially forceful about this. However, the Israelites seemed to have been irresistibly drawn to such religions, and we may conclude that many Israelites joined them and tried to popularise their practices (which included temple prostitution) amongst their fellow tribesmen. Amongst these would have been members of the tribe of Dan and Zebulun, who" abode in ships". The colonies established around the Mediterranean would have been heathen in consequence.
They were the same as the people who built the megaliths across Europe and into the British Isles.They left gold necklaces wherever they went. They also had
amber cups with handles. One beautiful example was found at Hove in Sussex, and another at Clandon in Dorset.These were products of the Baltic-Irish trade.
On the whole the Phoenicians did not fight very vigorously against any would-be conquerors, and usually settled for paying tribute, in retum for which they were
allowed to continue with their trading and commercial activities. Alexander the Great took Tyre in 332 B.C., after a long siege, and eventually the Romans came into
control in 64 B.C. Tyre once stood on a small island offshore, but it is now connected by a tongue of land which grew out of the causeway which Alexander's armies built during the siege. The destruction of Tyre was foretold by the prophets of Israel:
(Isaiah 23:1) The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them. (Chittim is Cyprus).
The Phoenicians supplied the great fleets of the Persians, with which they attacked Greece during the Persian Wars.
By1,000 BC the Phoenicians had become the master mariners of the ancient world. They built sophisticated ships with sternpost, and ribs that reinforced the planks of the hull. The planks were fitted edge to edge, that is, they were not clinker built, and closely resembled modern construction, employing mortise and tenon joints.
Homer, who dated from the sixth or seventh century BC, wrote of Odysseus (Ulysses) building a boat by boring the timbers with an auger and fastening them with wooden dowels. From this it may be seen that boat building was well advanced prior to the A.D.era. Indeed, Noah would have had to have extensive boat building
skills to construct the Ark, which some authorities have calculated to have been ofsimilar size to a modern ocean going ship.
By the eighth century BC the trade with Britain and Spain and Portugal was well established. The Bible refers to the "ships ofTarshish":
(I Kings 10:21-22) ...in the days of Solomon. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
(I Kings 22:48 ) Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
This port has been excavated, as the Tell-el-Kheleifeh. A flourishing copper mine was discovered, and the town appears to have been highly industrialised, as a blast furnace was discovered. From here the copper would have been exported, for the bronze which was so important in that time that it has become known as the
(Jeremiah 10:9) Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
(Ezekiel 27:12) Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.
(Ezekiel 27:25) The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market: and thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.
(Ezekiel 38:13) Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
(Jonah 1:3) But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Colonists from present day Palestine and Syria had settled near the mouth of the Guadalquivir in south western Spain, in what is now Andalusia. The trade was in metals which the natives mined. (They were probably the ancestors of the Basques). During this time the Celts were also pushing into the regions, and had overrun
them by 500 BC. They were relatives of the former colonists,but this fact was not necessarily realised by them. A city was built, called Tartessos, in Greek. The
script of their inscriptions, known as Tartessian, was very close to Phoenician, and Phoenician was so close to ancient Hebrew as to be almost a dialect. A great many modern names in Europe are of Phoenician origin, according to Professor Sammes. The very word "Europe" comes from "Ur-appa", meaning "a country
of white complexions".
The Bible tells us that the ships of Tarshish were the largest in the then known world, and they became synonymous with the idea of sea power. Coastal vessels were unable to cope with the sometimes fierce conditions of the open sea. In Bronze Age times sailors feared the east wind, in case it should blow them out into the Mediterranean, so they admired those whose ships were sturdy enough to venture even further afield to the famous "Tin Islands". Besides the Biblical references to this ancient trade, there are several classical authorities who mention it.
The merchants of Tarshish were considered to be very rich, and to have acquired their wealth by trade with the products of Andalusia, for the Andalusians mined silver. Spanish archaeologists have studied the remains of the Tartessian culture. They consider that it was dominant in southern Spain and that it kept the Celtic culture of the Iron Age from the region for a considerable time. This means that there are few traces of the La Tene culture compared with the rest of Europe.
Tartessian inscriptions have been found in America, in New England. The most important was found at Mount Hope Bay, Bristol, Rhode Island. It depicted a Tartessian ship without sails, but with a steering oar, and the translation is believed to mean "Mariners of Tarshish this rock proclaims". It cannot be accurately dated, but is believed to be from about 700 or 600 BC. Another inscription, this time in Ogham script has been found at Monhegan Island (off the coast of Maine).There is a flat topped islet which could have been used for loading and unloading ships. The inscription is in the ancient Goidelic language (Celtic or Gaelic). Thus it would appear that trade was extensively carried on in the late Bronze Age to an extent which only recently is becoming realised. An inscription in Phoenician has also been found in Brazil.The ancient mariners certainly travelled far and wide.
Correspondence has been found which was from King Hiram of Tyre (who supplied materials for Solomon's Temple) to a king of Lavinia, which was Tuscany. The Etruscan script is decipherable by knowledge of Phoenician, so it would appear that Etruria was another colony of these Phoenician/Israelitish adventurers.The document deals with a shipment from Tyre to Italy.
There also exists a shipping contract between a Greek merchant, Makarios, and a skipper of Cadiz. Cadiz, originally Gades, was founded in about 1100 BC, and
was an important port in the east-west trade. It is possible that Hebrews founded the city, for one of the tribes of Israel was Gad.
The ancient Greeks recorded that the Phoenicians had closely guarded secrets of the source of their supplies of tin and amber, so it was obvious that they carried on a flourishing trade with the British Isles from very early times.
The same trade products appeared simultaneously in the Aegean, Moravia, Hungary, Spain, Brittany, Holland and Britain from about 1600 BC. Amber products were found in all these places, and as the source was the Baltic, it seems that it was traded from the ports as well as being brought by an overland route to the shores of the Mediterranean. Irish jewellery has been found at Gaza, (mentioned by Sir Flinders Petrie), and beads found in Egyptian and Aegean tombs, dating from 1400 BC; others found at Lachish, dating from 1200 BC, are similar to beads found in Wiltshire.
The Palestinian ports traded with the Aegean (Javan) and Cyprus (Chittim). Deborah's rebuke to Dan (Judges 5) dates to approximately 1300 BC. This information is given in C.F.C. Hawkes' book "The Prehistoric Foundations of Europe to the Mycenaean Age" (Methuen & Co., London, 1940).
Before 530 BC the Greeks had made an exploratory voyage from their colony in the south of present day France. It was known as Massilia in those days, and is
now still the thriving port of Marseilles. The expedition visited Tartessos, with which town they had exchanged trade since about 630 BC. There are fragments of an
ancient manuscript known as the "Massiliote Periplus" which were quoted in a poem by Festus Avienus in the 4th century AD. It tells that the Tartessians went far north for their trade, perhaps as far as modem Brittany, and to two large islands even further north, known as Ierne (Ireland) and Albion (Britain). Some authorities think that the Phoenicians had discovered the southwest of Britain long before, because of the importance of the import of tin. They had the secrets of the production of bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin, and they also imported amber, which came from the Baltic regions. Strabo, an ancient geographer of the first century AD wrote that the Phoenicians were very careful to guard their secrets, and even ran their vessels ashore if they suspected that they were being tailed by Roman ships.
Carthage was on the coast of North Africa,and for a while it was a power in the area. You may remember some of the heroes from school history lessons, and will recall Hannibal of Carthage and his elephants and Queen Dido's suicide when she was betrayed. These are classical stories, and when I was young were taught as part of a general education. Whether this still is the case, I do not know, as it now a long time since my children were at school, and I do not think that they had ever heard of Hannibal and Dido from their history lessons. It is a pity if these legends are no longer taught, for they will fire a child's imagination, and give a thirst for
knowledge, such as was imparted to me. It cannot be that all modern children are no longer interested in these old sagas, and it is a deprivation of their heritage that
they should not at least be given a "taster" of these classic and heroic tales, so that if they should wish to pursue an investigation into these matters in later years, they are not given the groundwork to motivate them. How would our historians and archaeologists be given the enthusiasm to wish to make these disciplines their careers in later life?
Carthage was founded by Queen Dido, who brought her people from Palestine, more specifically from Phoenicia, for this was a coastal land. They were accepted as kinsmen by the people who were already there, and Carthage became an important trading centre for "the ships of Tarshish and the Isles".
Having settled in Libya in the time of the settlement of Israel in Palestine, the Carthaginians were eventually dominated by the Romans, who conquered North Africa.
The Carthaginians became the Moors in much later times, and by then the bulk of the people contained a mixture of Arab elements. They established several cities along the North African coast, as far as present day Tangier, which was called Tigisis in Roman times. Procopius, the Byzantine historian of Caesarea (c. 527A.D.) stated that there were two white stelae or columns with this inscription:
"We are they who fled before the face of Joshua, the robber, the son of Nun"
The more we study these ancient peoples in the light of the knowledge of their origins through the key to understanding Bible history, the more we see the plan of God being worked out as He caused the dispersal of His people throughout the world. These nations were all part of His grand Design, and they fulfilled their destinies completely unaware that they were doing the Lord's Will. As we have seen, they were heathen, apart from the actual nation of Israel, and even they fell into idolatry to a great extent. There remained only a remnant of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, who stayed faithful to Jehovah and prepared the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Through His Sacrifice, eventually all mankind was to be given the opportunity to believe and to become members of His Kingdom, and the Hebrew nations, in blindness, did the work of preparing His earthly Kingdom.
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